THE SIKH IS IN GUJARAT
A COMMUNITY ONE WITH THE SOCIETY
Balwant Singh (IAS retd)
If we follow the chronological details of the first missionary journey worked by Prof. Sahib Singh, Guru Nanak paid visit to Gujarat in 1514-15 said Dr. Fauja Singh in his article "Religious Cultural Heritage of the Punjab" contained in "Sikhism in Punjab's Heritage" (page 14) edited by Dr. Wazir Singh. S. Surinder Singh Kohli in his book "Travels of Guru Nanak" published by Punjab University mentions large number of places visited by Guru Nanak in Gujarat like Patan, Idar, Surat, Bharuch, Rajpipla, Baroda, Cambay, Ahmedabad, Dakor, Kheda, Wadhwan, Palitana, Junagadh, Veraval, Somnath, Porbandar, Dwarka, Dwarka Beyt, Anjar, Mandvi, Bhuj, Lakhpat etc. It is also mentioned that opinion is divided as to the port from where he embarked a ship for Ad,en. Some say that the Guru boarded from Dwarka and other from Sural. There are at least three Gurdwaras namely Gurdwara Nanak Wadi in the centre of Vadodara (Baroda), Gurdwara Chadar Sahib, Bharuch and Gurdwara Sahib, Lakhpat in the remote arid area of Kutch District which are historical Gurdwaras. All these Gurdwaras are in the memory of the visit of Guru Nanak Dev.
Whichever place Guruji visited, he established "Sangats". The above referred book mentions Nanak Baris or Dharamsals in the places visited by Guruji in Gujarat. But it will require deep probing to locate these Nanak Baris or Dharamsals now. At that time, the local people might have been influenced by the teachings but with the flux of time, most of these sangats disappeared. It seems that the sangats established by Guruji remained active upto the time of Guru Gobind Singhji. and perhaps sometime thereafter. We should remember that Bhai Mohkam Chand travelled all the way from Dwarka (Gujarat) to Anandpur Sahib to become one of the Panj Piaras. He must have travelled with a Jatha. In Dwarka Beyt (Island) there was a small piece of land of about 600 mtrs described as Nanak Shahi in the revenue records but as there was no claimant, it was made gauchar (i.e. common grazing Government land). Now about 300 meters of this land has been purchased from Government and with the efforts of Baba Lakha Singh Kotawale, a magnificient Gurdwara has been constructed in the memory of Guru Nanak Dev and Piara Bhai Mohkam Singh. The adjoining lands have also been purchased and eighteen rooms with modem facilities have been constructed for yatris. Dwarka Beyt is a small island in the Arabian Sea near Dwarka town in Jamnagar district, which can be visited by motor boat. There is not even one Sikh in the island. Granthi and Sevadars are provided by Baba Lakha Singh. The Gurdwara is now attracting a good number of Sikhs and Sehajdhari Sindhis ' from all over Gujarat on Gurpurb days.
Now about Gurdwara Lakhpat Shaib. Lakhpat is a village and the name of Taluka (Tehsil) of District Kutch situated at the shore of creek of sea on the border of Sind (pakistan). It is a remote desolated village at a distance of 140 kms from Bhuj, the district headquarter of Kutch. The village is situated within an old fort having massive thick walls. The majority population is of Muslims. When I visited it in 1969 during my official tour, it was a Taluka (Tehsil) Head Quarter. Due to remoteness of the village in a vast arid area, the Taluka Hd. Qtr. has been shifted to another conveniently located place. It is said that Lakhpat was a flourishing port in golden times. Guru Nanak Dev stayed in this village and is said to have boarded the ship from here for going to Mecca. He stayed in a Haveli type house. The present building of the Gurdwara is said to be more than 200 (some say 400) years old. A pair of wooden sandals (yVktK) which is said to be of Guru Nanak Dev is kept here. Due to its heritage importance, the building was taken over by Archaeological Department of the Government of Gujarat in 1992. This old haveli type building was badly damaged during the earthquake of 2001. Mrs. Gurmeet Rai, the conservation expert moved the Archaeological Survey of India to sanction Rs. 22.00 lacs and with the permission of the Government of Gujarat, the building was repaired with great care under her supervision in 2003 and restored to its original heritage beauty. Mrs. Gurmeet Rai and the Government of Gujarat were awarded in 2005 the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for maintaining this heritage building. Consider it in the context of what has been done in Punjab where all the vestiges of the Guru period historical buildings signs have been cruelly demolished to make way for almost identical marble edifices. The small village house in Sultanpur Lodhi where Guru Nanak once lived was destroyed to make way for marble Gurdwara with shops on the front side. I had seen this house in early 1970, it was completely in tact at that time. The sevadar pointed to the room where Sri Chandji was born. What a soul satisfying experience it would have been to see the house of Guru Nanak again and again. The latest to fall prey to this cruelty is the architecturally beautiful heritage house of Bebe Nanki at Sultanpur Lodhi. It appears that the concept of archeological preservation is alien to those who manage the holy Guru period historical places and sites, thereby making the Sikhs not to take pride in their heritage. Unlike in Gujarat where the ancient heritage sites, holy Hindu, Jain and Muslim religious places, including Gurdwara at Lakhpat are assiduously protected and preserved. The SGPC offered every site of deep sentimental value to the Sikhs to the "Kar Sevaks" and they quickly accomplished the job with the Punjab Government remaining a mute spectator.
Reverting to Lakhpat Gurdwara Sahib, to maintain its heritage importance, no change can be made in the building nor any structure can be erected near this building. The Gurdwara was being looked after by a local Udasi Sehajdhari. Baba Lakha Singh Kotawale persuaded the Udasi to handover the possession. With the dedicated service of S. Ujagar Singh of Rajkot and the Sikhs of Gandhidham (Kutch) a bare facility for langar and convenience of Yatris has been created and a vast walled compound has been provided. Land has also been purchased nearby for future needs. Though the building of the Gurdwara is under the control of Gujarat Archaeological Department, the actual possession is with the Sikhs through the Granthi and Sevadars and there is no restriction on the visit of devotees. There is regular recitation of Gurbani morning and evening. One can find old books in Sindhi on Gurbani in the Gurdwara. Baba Sri Chand is also said to have visited this place. Surprisingly the water of the well in the compound of the Gurdwara is sweet unlike in the rest of the desert where the underground aquifers have salty water which is also why it is believed to be a sacred place. The well is as old as the haveli. The pilgrimage to Gurdwara Lakhpat Sahib in desert part of Kutch district and Gurdwara in the island of Dwarka Beyt in Jamnagar . district with poor transport connections will be arduous but will be at the same time spiritually satisfying.
As no effort was made to preach in Gujarati or Hindi language, the sangats disappeared with the lapse of time. It seems that sometime later some Udasis visited some of the places earlier visited by Guru Nanak and prepared hand written "Birs" in Gujarat. A set of two manuscript "BIRS" is kept at village VANOD. I visited village Vanod, about 150 kID from Ahmedabad on 26.4.2009 along with my friends. Vanod is an interior village in Taluka (Tehsil) Dasada, District Surendernagar. The two "BIRS" are in the possession of Shri Jagdishbhai Mohandas Kababat. One "BIR" seems to be the copy of the other, each having more than 600 pages. Though these appear to be complete copies of Guru Granth Sahib with Ragmala, however it will require a detailed study in this respect. These are stated to have been written by Udasi Brahmdasji about 200-250 years ago in the village itself. The name of d1e writer or the date has not been mentioned. The whole house of Shri Jagdishbhai seems to be a temple complex having Hindu idols and is stated to have been constructed by the Udasi who died there itself and his samadh is a also in the house. Shri Jagdishbhai, himself an elderly person, who with his family is the present occupant the house says that at the time of his grandfather also these 'bits' were there and are from earlier period. These are written with a "kalam" (ebw) in continuous letters. The method of preparing the ink is also mentioned. The thick paper of the 'bits' have become quite brittle so that it is difficult to turn the pages, Unless these are microfilmed or digitized, this treasure may be lost for ever. These are kept in a small room. On the wooden door of the room, the name 'Udasi Prem Das' is carved in Gujarati. It might have remained an Udasi dera for long. Shri Jagdishbhai and the villagers who do not know to speak Punjabi or read Gurmukhi, show deep respect to the 'bits' and are not willing to part with these. S. Surinder Singh Kohli in his book mentioned above has stated that Guru Nanak visited Wadhwan and Patan among many other places. If we see geographically as per present day connections, both these towns are located in opposite directions (about 90 km and 70 km respectively) of village Vanod and this shows the possibility of Guru Nanak having visited this village and started Sangat. The Udasi Saints might have come to this village because of this. It can also be surmised that the Udasi who prepared hand written copy from another 'bit' might be writing 'bits' and leaving one behind. In this case, the Udasi is said to have left his body in the village itself and thus both the 'bits' might have remained here. It is also possible that hand written 'birs' may be lying in some other unknown places also.
When I first came to Gujarat (carved out of old Bombay State in 1960 and four times bigger than present Punjab) in 1965, I was rather surprised to see Sindhi Gurdwaras or Mandirs named, "Guru Nanak Darbar" even in small towns. A large number of Sindhis migrated to Guprat from the adjoining Sind province after Partition. They were devotees of Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Granth Sahib. During the last 45 years, I find that many of these Guru Nanak Darbars have disappeared. The new generation has tilted towards the mainstream Hinduism. They cannot read Guru Granth Sahib as they do not known Punjabi. But still there are some devout Sindhis who maintain theit Gurdwaras, Guru Nanak Darbars, or Mandir where regular reading of Guru Granth Sahib and Kirtan is done. A few of the Sindhis are Kesadharis. During the last few years about 60 Sehajdhari Sindhis have become kesadhari in Bhavnagar, a district headquarter, about 200 km from Ahmedabad.
Generally the Sindhis follow the multi religious practice. They register their religion as Hindu Many Sindhi Sehajdharis go to Harimandir Sahib to offer prayers with devotion. They will have recitation from Guru Granth Sahib and also observe Hindu rituals alongside. Some Sindhis keep the 'bit' of Guru Granth Sahib at home along with Hindu scriptures and idols. It is their practice of religion. As the Sikhs do not like the people of other religions to interfere in their religion, the Sikhs also have no right to interfere in the religious practice of Sindhis. The Guru belonged to all the people. Guru Granth Sahib belongs to the whole humanity, but unf01tunatcly some people have appropriated it for certain sections of the Sikhs, not even for all the Sikhs. We should not forget that only the Sikhs are enjoined upon to regard Guru Granth Sahib as Guru. Guru Granth Sahib, being universal scripture, can be kept by Sindhis and others as they have been doing for centuries and pay obeisance' as per their traditional practice. We should reverse the trend of alienating Sindhis and also Sehajdharis, Udasis, Dalits, Patits and others. The Sikhs need to develop an inclusive rather than exclusive approach. Unfortunately every Sikh seems to call every other Sikh as. non Sikh. When the Prime Minister of the country and the world renowned respectable personality like Dr. Manmohan Singh and distinguished Gen like J.J. Singh are called non Sikhs, what will the people outside Punjab think about the Sikhs. The Sikhs in Gujarat feel uncomfortable, upset and embarrassed at such naive remarks. This sort of short sighted, partisan, tainted and cramped view will have to be shed.
Speaking about the influx of Sikhs to Gujarat, some migrated from Pakistan upon Partition. Some came from Punjab and other places for business and industry as the environment for these activities have been traditionally very conducive in Gujarat. Some have done well in cloth industry and business, while others in steel, pharmaceuticals, chemical and other sectors. A number of hotels and dhabas are owned by Sikhs. Still others are engaged in transport, spare parts and other allied business. Then some from All India Services, Defense Services and other departments of Government and public sector undertakings like Railways, ONGC and other corporations who were serving in Gujarat settled here on retirement. Some are serving personnel. Thus The Sikhs in Gujarat are engaged in varied activities. They are mostly in urban areas specially big cities like Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot. Some, of course, are living in smaller towns depending upon the business and their .initial start. A small number of Sikhs are settled in rural areas and are engaged in agriculture.
Decades ago Sikhs were known to be sturdy, hardworking, courageous, self reliant, sensitive about self esteem and cut out specially for defense forces. The Sikhs in Gujarat, then were a respected lot and there was an abundance of goodwill for them. Sikhs, along with others, who were in defense services or retired were being allotted Government land for agriculture. Some look advantage of this scheme. Then the Sikhs because of their martial trait and patriotic fervour were encouraged to settle in the vast border district of Kutch (almost equal in area to that of Punjab of today). This district abutting on Sind province of Pakistan has a sizeable Muslim population. The Sikhs were being allotted upto 39 acres of land per family. Some Sikhs got land under this policy and are now spread over a number of villages of the district. Then after migration to India, some 125 Sikh families moved in Punjab, Rajasthan and M.P. till 1965 when ultimately with the good offices of late Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister, each family was allotted 42 acres of land in the interior villages of the district. Thus the border villages of Nara, Kothara, Loria Jura have good number of Sikh agriculturists. The Sikhs have transformed the arid land into green fields and cultivate cotton, wheat, sugar cane, groundnut, coconut, lemon etc. They have verily created an oasis of mini Punjab in the vast arid land. Some Sikhs are also engaged in agriculture in the villages of Loria and Sumarasar near Bhuj.
The Sikhs in Gujarat commanded respect first because they constituted a good chunk of defense forces and were perceived to be the defenders of the Nation, then as providers of food to the Nation. Now with the dwindling presence in the defense forces and other States becoming self-sufficient in agricultural production, the Sikhs specially outside Punjab are fast losing that psychological edge. The past glory cannot last long. Whereas it is difficult to fill up the reduced quota for Sikhs from Punjab in the defense forces, the shortfall has to be made good from Haryana. Now increasing number of Gujarati youths are coming forward for joining the defense services. On the agricultural front, Gujarat has achieved annual increase of 9.6% campared to mere 2% in Punjab during the last seven years 2000-01 to 2007-08 (Times of India dated 6.5.09). The Punjab is far behind in the general rate of growth. It's growth rate of 4.32% is much less than that of Haryana of 6.93% and all India of 6.77% (PHDCCI: States at a Glance 2006-07 Punjab, page 19). Punjab is receding. Rather Punjab is getting all the adverse publicity with odd happenings every now and then flashed on the T.V. and things like female foeticide, alcoholism, drug addiction etc. This blurs the image of the Sikhs in Gujarat. Earlier the goodwill for the Sikhs got eroded to an extent upon the happenings in Punjab in 1980s.
The population of Sikhs in Gujarat as per 2001 census was 45,587 which is an insignificant part constituting only .0089 % of the population of Gujarat of 5,06,71,000. The population of Sikhs does not include the Sehajdhari Sindhis who register their religion as Hindu. The Sikhs are all Punjabis, though a very few are Sindhi Sikhs. There are no Gujarati Sikhs.
Being basically Punjabis, the Sikhs in Gujarat are as still indentified with Punjab. Thus the happenings in Punjab have their repercussions on Sikhs outside Punjab. Though there were some mental apprehensions among the local people because of the militant phase in Punjab in eighties and early nineties, these have, with the passage of time and developments in the politi
cal and administrative sphere at the Central level, largely been overcome. Any happening of some consequence is nowadays flashed live on TV. Our request to the jathedars, netas and other Sikhs in Punjab is that they may exercise restraint and think twice about what they do or say because of the possible impact on the image of the Sikhs outside Punjab for the actions in Punjab. It may not make any difference in Punjab but. in Gujarat where the Sikhs are a microscopic minority, the Sikh image takes a drubbing. It is high time that the community sheds the baggage of grievances against everybody else for all the ills rather than peeping inwards. Some people have encashed on it and thrived for too long. It is also an easy escape for the Sikhs' own failures. Instead the Sikh youth should be enabled to nurse aspirations in the totality of society and imbibe buoyant optimism. This will also help the Sikhs in other States to develop right orientation vis-a-vis others with whom they have to live and deal. The Sikhs in Gujarat at present have very cordial relations with the local Gujarati population and the Gujaratis reciprocate warmly. As a part of celebration of Khalsa Sirjana in 1999, the Government of Gujarat named the famous Government hospital at Jamnager as Guru Gobind Singh Hospital.
A need was felt for an organization of Sikhs in Gujarat to attend to the common interests concerning the community, in some cases even the individual problems where help and succour was required and also to render service to the society as a whole during natural disasters like floods. Thus the Gujarat Sikh Pratinidhi Parishad was formed in 2002 as a registered body, under the patronage of Baba Lakha Singh Kotawale. At present the writer of this article happens to be the Chairman, S Gurdial Singh, IPS (retcl) President and Capt (retd), S.S. Sandha, LLM as Secretary. The Parishad is attending to the affairs of Sikhs in Gujarat. It rendered good measure of help to the poor persons by disturbing food articles and utencils in the flooded areas of Surat. It took up the case of cancellation of holiday on birthday of Guru Nanak Dev with the Government of Gujarat which was restored. It is now trying to get a direct railway connection between Ahmedabad and Amritsar. S. Gurdial Singh has published pamphlets in English and Punjabi to explain the various scholarship and loan schemes of Central Government for minority communities and explained these in various Gurdwaras. It has published list of Gurdwaras in Gujarat: There are 65 Gurdwaras and in addition there are 10 Gurdwaras of Sikligars. Most of the Siligars live below the poverty line usually in small clusters on the periphery of towns and because of distance, they have established small Gurdwaras, even in the huts, where it is difficult to maintain the regular maryada. The Sikligars usually come to the other general Gurdwaras. Unlike in Punjab rural areas, there are no caste based exclusive Gurdwaras in Gujarat. A large number of Gurdwaras are situated in big cities and towns. Regular maryada in being maintained. In almost all the Gurdwaras there is langar very Sunday. A sizeable number of non-Sikhs, mostly poor, also partake langar. In addition there are Guru Nanak Darbars or Mandirs of Sindhis where prakash of Guru Granth Sahib is done and recitation of Gurbani takes place. In Surat City, there is Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Gurdwara managed by Punjabi Sahejdharis. They are also running Guru Nanak Charitable Hospital for which members contribute Rs. 50 to Rs. 5000 every month. They have also constructed a beautiful guesthouse named Guru Harkrishan guest house.
Unfortunately the Sikhs in Gujarat have not been able to establish educational institutions. There are two middle level schools, one in Ahmedabad and the otl1er in Gandhidham (Kutch), both are not doing well. A good building has been constructed in Vadodara (Baroda) for school, but the institution has not yet developed. However good educational facilities are available everywhere in Gujarat and the Sikh children are doing well.
There is lack of literature on Sikhism in Gujarati language. I must say that inspite of this, the Gujaratis in general regard Guru Gobind Singh as a great national hero. Sometimes good articles on Gurus and Sikhism written by Gujarati writers appear in Gujarati newspapers. There have been some attempts to publish books on Sikhism in Gujarati. Commentories on some Banis were published. Sant Vinoba Bhave published commentary on Japji in Hindi in 1964 which was translated and published in Gujarati later. I did not know about this translation. I therefore got it translated from Hindi to Gujarati. Now with the efforts of the translator, it is being published by the Gujarat Sahitya Academy. The Gujarati book "Sikh Darshan" written by Dr. Upendrarai J. Sandesara was published in 1976 by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University. This is a very illuminating book of 260 pages written in chaste Gujarati on Sikh philosophy. It
is now out of print. Sahib-e-Kamal Guru Gobind Singh by Lala Daulat Rai was translated and Gujarati version printed in Ahmedabad. A Gujarati writer published a pamphlet on Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Nanak Study Circle, Gandhinagar published Sukhmani Sahib with text and meanings in Gujarati, which is very nice and nominally priced. The Guru Granth Sahib in Gujarati letters with original matras and also as commonly pronounced was published in five volumes by this Study Circle. But I may say with all humility that it contains many mistakes. On the occasion of Vaisakhi of 1999, I published Gujarati version of the pamphlet 1699 dh ft;kyh written by S. Sukhdev Singh Shant and published by Guru Nanak Mission, Patiala. Then this and three other pamphlet were published by Gujarat Sikh Pratinidhi Parishad and more than 20,000 copies were distributed free. The Gujarati version of the following books was also published:
1. Atam Prakash by S. Sardara Singh of Mohali
2. Sarv Nidhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib and
3. Khalsa Sirjana -Ek Vardan both by Dr. Sarup Singh Alag, Ludhiana.
Also a book 'Sri Guru Granth Sahib - Abhinandan Pustika" was published containing 21 articles on Guru Granth Sahib written by scholars and translated into Gujarati. Five of these articles were written by Gujarati writers. The preface to this book has been written by Swami Sachidanandji, a well known thinker who is very knowledgeable about Sikhism and is a great admirer of Guru Gobind Singh and Sahibbzadas. These books were very much liked by Gujarati readers. The SGPC had given a grant of Rs. One Lakh to Gujarat Sikh Pratinidhi Parishad for publication of these books. A pamphlet on Sahibbzadas under the title 'Mahaan Shaheed' was also published. It may be stated that Gujaratis, unlike Punjabis, are very fond of reading. There is an imperative need for prolific production of authentic literature on Sikhism in Gujarati language so that the Gujaratis appreciate the Sikh religion, history and culture in the right perspective.
I may be permitted to make a few points here. It is often claimed by Sikh preachers that Sikhism has spread and Sikhs are found throughout India and all over the world, and that Sikhism is a global faith. In my view Sikhism has not spread. It is only the Punjabi Sikhs who have gone to places outside Punjab in India and abroad in search of employment and business as in Punjab there are very few avenues. Outside Punjab there are no Sikh san gats, these are only Punjabi Sikh sangats. A few Americans or Europeans becoming Sikhs does not alter the ground realities. We know that in the State the area of which starts just 15 kms from here (Gurdwara Kanthala, Chandigarh) i.e. Himachal Pradesh the Sikhs are only one percent and in another State which is just 3-4 kms form here i.e. Haryana, the Sikhs constitute only 5.5% and these are Punjabi Sikhs. We may remember that both these States were part of Punjab before the present small semi State of Punjab was got created. So the claim that Sikhism has spread far and wide is hollow. It has not spread even in the States abutting Punjab. No religion can take pride in this sort of situation. To say that Sikhism has spread throughout the world is only to create a false euphoria among the Sikhs hiding the utter failure of the semi literate politically motivated preaching class and leaders.
The Sikhs are concentrated in Punjab and are Punjabi centrist and thus have done incalculable harm to the spread of the faith. In the Gurdwaras outside Punjab only Punjabi is spoken and so the local people do not come. As only the Punjabis come to the Gurdwaras, only Punjabi is spoken. This has become a vicious circle. It is conveniently forgotten that even the language of Guru Granth Sahib is not wholly Punjabi, even Persion IS there. In my sector in Gandhinagar (Gujarat) there is a Church. The service and lectures are delivered in English. Hindi and Gujarati and people speaking different languages belonging to different States come and listen to the speakers who are quite well read and very knowledgeable unlike our ragis and preachers. It is unfortunate that the Sikhs have not adopted this model. At the time of opening of new Gurdwara at the far flung island of Dwarka Beyt (in Jamngar District of Gujarat) the local MLA, tl1e Pandits of numerous local Mandirs and other local people were present. The Granthi of Shri Darbar Sahib (Amritsar) who was specially invited for the occasion spoke in Punjahi and so the local people could not understand anything. Perhaps the Sikh preachers cannot speak any other language. Does Morari Bapu speak in Gujarati in Ferozpur and Ludhiana ? He speaks in Hindi outside Gujarat and lakhs assemble to listen to him attentively. In this connection, I may also say that some local people in Nanded (Maharashtra) and Bidar (Karnataka) come to the Gurdwaras but our leaders and preachers speak only in Punjabi. This has acted as a hindrance to the spread of knowledge about Sikhism and has kept this faith confined to the small area of present Punjab where also Sikh population is fast dwindling. The Sikhs were 13 % in the pre - independence Punjab, 30% in the post independence Punjab and 65 % in the present Punjab when it was formed in 1966. Thus in a way, the percentage of Sikhs in Punjab have been inversely related to the size of Punjab. The last consus (2001) shows it has fallen by sharp 3% from 62.95% to 59.9% during the decade. Kerala, State Christians constitute 22 percent of the population. In the last census, the Christian population had shown a decline of mere 0.32 percent. Even on this insignificant decline, the catholic church in Kerala has shown serious concern and is taking definitive and important measures like reversal of tubectomy among women in the Church run hospitals, financial support to the fourth child of poor families etc (Indian Express: 2.7.2009). Compare the concern, rather non concern, of the Sikh leaders and SGPC In Punjab. There has been no concern for the steep decline from 65 percent 59 percent including the decline of threatening 3 percent during the last census alone. Neither the SGPC, being projected as the supreme body of the Sikhs, nor any other party, society, Diwan or Dal has shown any meaningful response. As the trends show, Sikhs will be in minority again in a few years even in the present Punjab. If the Sikhs lose majority in Punjab, we will lose face in Gujarat. It is felt that when State, language, politics and religion are messed up, the religion gets marginalized impelling the people to seek alternative paths resulting in 'deras' which are patronized by politicians making these deras still more popular among the people. The politics must spare religion and religion should ,transcend the barriers of State, country and language. If such a situation is not allowed to prevail, the Sikh religion cannot flourish and is bound to diminish. In this regard, the case of Christianity, Hinduism and Islam should serve as a pointer for the Sikhs to follow.
However the present situation is 'that the Sikhs, whether settled in Gujarat or elsewhere are Punjabis and as Punjab is still called the cradle or stronghold of Sikhism, the Sikhs in Gujarat can legitimately expect pleasant breeze to emanate from Punjab. But what actually is the case. We get hot winds like female foeticide, alcoholism, addiction to drugs and introxicants, failing health, falling education standards, social profligacy, receding industrial base, rampant apostasy, religion politicized, Guru Granth Sahib Governmentalised, disgusting discrimination between Sikhs and Sikhs looking to their political affiliation in Gurdwaras and holy Takhts because of political control, exclusivism thereby shrinkirig Sikhism, culture muddled, dalit bashing resulting in drifting away of this important segment from Sikhism etc.
Such things and attitudes are luckily mosdy absent in Gujarat. The Gujarat government celebrates "Vibrant Gujarat" festival every year with great enthusiasm to take Gujarat to still higher levels of vibrancy while the Punjab Government has recently made a clean confession in an affidavit before the Punjab and Haryana High Court that the vibrancy of Punjab is virtually a myth. It has given the details of the extent of drug addiction and saying further that there is danger of losing the young generation (Indian Express dt. 22.5.2009). This means that there is no hope left for Punjab. Punjab is not only losing its body but also its soul (Shri Gobind Thukral, The Tribune Dt. 14.6.2009). On the other hand, Gujarat is not only building it body but also enriching its soul. Punjab has the highest per capita consumption of liquor and Scotch whisky besides opium a1,1d smack which makes the Punjab Government earn Rs. 1700 crores (reference above). Gujarat is the only State in India to have prohibition and is happy to lose Rs. 3000 crores annually on this account so as to keep its youth bodily fit and spiritually high. We wish the happenings in Punjab could be such as to make the Sikhs in Gujarat proud of Punjab. In the domain of religion one cannot be fed indefinitely on the glory and chivalry of the past alone unless past glory is to some extent matched with the present situation. In Gujarat though said to be the laboratory of Hindutva, religious places are not used for crass party politics. No political conferences are .arranged to poison the minds of the people assembled for cleansing their souls. The political conferences on solemn religious and shadeedi occasions are one important reason which make the Sikhs specially the youth turn their back upon religion leading to apostasy. Unlike in Punjab, the politically neutral temple priests and the intellectuals in Gujarat will not tolerate it, will not allow it. The politicians in Gujarat go to religious places to pray with devotion leaving their politics out in the open.
Sikhs in Gujarat will like to seek guidance and draw strength from the Sikhs and institutions in Punjab but the dismal situation in Punjab has first to improve. The Sikhs in Gujarat are one with the society in Gujarat and they are happy to live amicably in the most industrialized and progressive State. However as the Sikhs in Gujarat have close affiliation with the Punjab, we in Gujarat hope and pray that Punjab regenerates religiously, culturally, socially and economically so that we will be able to look up to Punjab where our roots are, with pride.
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